The film follows the life of Bruce Wayne after the events of Batman Begins. We are immediately introduced to two new "main" characters--Harvey Dent and the Joker and a reboot of one previously mediocre character--Rachel Dawes. As the film continues it's journey, the audience learns more about the motives behind the Clown Prince of Crime and the interesting similarities between the man in the black cape and the man in the purple jacket.
The film is about 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is (I believe) the longest comic book film to date (but should be overthrown by Watchmen in March '09); however, I never felt that it was too long or that they should have made edits to cut the time. What the Nolan brothers present in their almost three hour epic is a tale that reveals to the not so comically educated viewer the essence of the Joker, and why he has become synonymous with Batman. Of course, there would be no Joker without Heath Ledger's magnificent portrayal of the Batman's nemesis. It definitely isn't anything quite like Jack Nicholson's version back in the early '90's, but it's nothing short of spectacular.
Moreover, the Nolan brothers create their own spin on the origins of Two-Face, which I absolutely loved. Yeah, it wasn't the acid splash in The Long Halloween, but it was still well done. And no offense to Tommy Lee Jones--who did a great and comical rendition of the character--but I found that this was a fitting representation of an extremely psychologically complex villain.
And speaking of psychologically complex, I found the amount of depth presented in the script utterly astounding. They were able to fit the complexities of created by Alan Moore, Jeph Loeb, and the like into one film, which (as a struggling writer) I found to be a testament to Jonathon's ability as a writer. Plus, I really appreciated his nods to the comic books that have come before this film. (look below to see some that I caught)
So what did you expect from a film that has grossed almost $400 million already?
The directing is dynamic. The music is marvelous. The writing is wonderful. The acting is astonishing. To keep the list short, the film is fantastic. And if you haven't already thrown down the $9.50, do it because this "comic book film" is going to be one for the ages.
Comic book references in the film [this is entirely from memory and may not be totally accurate]:
1) In the court room scene and one of Maroni's thugs pulls out a gun, he uses a .22 which is Harvey's gun of choice in The Long Halloween.
2) The rooftop scene where Batman, Harvey, and Gordon all meet is taken almost panel for panel out of The Long Halloween.
3) When the Joker burns up a big pile of money near the final act of the film, this is a reference to...you guessed it--The Long Halloween.